This post was written by Cole Lanosga during his time working at the Archives. He has now completed his BA in History is off pursuing opportunities in cultural heritage institutions! He did some terrific work for us during his time here and we wish him luck!
Recently my supervisor Carrie Schwier gave me a small but nonetheless fascinating project to work on at the IU Archives. In a collection of student publications, she found a folder titled Armageddon News. The Armageddon News was supposedly an unofficial student publication that was written in 1968 and 1969, culminating in four separate issues. Its sole purpose was to respond to and perhaps curb the growing activity and perceived militancy of leftist organizations on college campuses, namely IU. While the issues the Archives have access to do not pronounce overt political views of the students involved, one can certainly grasp their political persuasion by looking at the organizations the Armageddon News covered. This publication describes the activity and “anarchistic” beliefs of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Young Socialist Aliance (YSA), and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) as a hostile intrusion onto the Bloomington campus.
The newsletter was initially assumed to be an unofficial student publication, as the two issues the archives have access to do not mention names or organizations tied with its publication. It was thought that the publication was likely organized by an individual student or more likely a group of like-minded students that worked on the issues themselves without the support of any department of IU. However, further research conducted by Archives staff brought to light the fact that the paper was among a select group of planted FBI one-page throwaway publications for countering New-Left ideology on college campuses. Bloomington and IU during the mid to late 1960s witnessed a rise in popularity of revolutionary cultural and political sentiments as students and some of the city’s residents associated with the New-Left movement. Moreover, groups like those mentioned in the first paragraph, saw their ‘revolutionary’ beliefs on culture relating to drug use and sexual politics and their political beliefs, mainly the US withdrawal from Vietnam, elevated in underground student papers like IU’s The Spectator. Historian Mary Ann Wykoop noted, “At its peak, the Spectator had a circulation of about 1,700, publishing issues about fifty pages long twice a month.”1 The popularity and dissemination of such alternative news sources was deeply concerning to counterintelligence agencies like the FBI.
To stem the growing New Left tide, the FBI planted the Armageddon News, along with similar publications like The Longhorn Tale at the University of Texas Austin and the Rational Observer at American University in D.C.2 This effort was later revealed to be a part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. This program, spanning from 1956 to 1971, was charged with hampering the activities of and creating discontent and confusion amongst extremist organizations across the United States. The program is most infamously known for its infiltration of Black Nationalist movements like the Black Panther Party. In a history course on the Black Panther Party I took with Dr. Jakobi Williams, we discussed the level of infiltration of the COINTELPRO program which included the dismantling of various community outreach programs and more through the tactics of misinformation and the dissemination of counter ideology, similar to the purpose behind the planted Armageddon News.
I had a lot of fun with this project, and I hope this encourages IU students to dig around the archives that we are blessed with at this university. The history is rich and extremely relevant to a plethora of subjects. To view the Armageddon News newsletters, contact the IU Archives at email@example.com.
1 Wynkoop, Mary Ann. Dissent In the Heartland: The Sixties At Indiana University. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002, 161.
2 Brumfield, Dale. “The Facts Were Immaterial.” The Austin Chronicle, June 7, 2013.